Air Canada kept Nanaimo's Alan Whelam from boarding his flight from Halifax to St. John last month because the carrier had sold more passengers than the plane has seats.
Whelam isn't alone. Nanaimo couple Monique and Lee Jessey were unable to board their plane from Calgary last month for the same reason.
In both cases, Air Canada reimbursed flyers with $100 cheques, but a recent Canadian Transportation Authority decision sets the base reimbursement amount for stranding passengers at $400.
The Jesseys were returning from a short trip to Calgary to attend a wedding, and were anxious to get back to their children, aged four and 15 months, who were staying with grandparents on Saltspring Island.
"We arrived more than two hours before our flight was due to leave," Monique said.
They were shocked to learn seats they'd bought months earlier, would go to another passenger.
"It was just pure frustration," Monique said. "You pay for something and then you arrive and it's not there for you. We're hard working, middle-class people."
Whelam was on the third, and final leg of his trip to New Brunswick when Air Canada stranded him in Halifax.
"I was choked."
Then, so close to seeing his family, he was called to the desk, after an announcement asking if any passengers would willingly give up seats in exchange for a future flight credit. He became nervous.
His seat was given to another passenger, and he spent another five hours waiting for a flight.
"How can they give up my seat?" he said. "I think they need a better system."
"Air Canada recognizes any disruption to travel is inconvenient and we regret it," said Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah by email.
The CTA has twice reviewed overbooking and ruled it is an acceptable practice and "because we sell flexible, fully refundable tickets to worldwide customers connecting in from other airlines, our customer no-show rate is much higher than at carriers that do not offer fully refundable tickets," Mah said.
The higher reimbursement schedule kicks in on Nov. 1.
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